In his rookie year on the Nationwide Tour in 2007, Atlanta native John Kimbell traveled to Valdosta for the South Georgia Classic. Under windy, final-round conditions at Kinderlou Forest Golf Club, Kimbell came from one stroke behind at the beginning of the day, was the only player in the field to shoot a round in the 60s and won his first and only Nationwide Tour title.
Two years later, Kimbell is back at Kinderlou Forest for the South Georgia Classic, with the course bringing back plenty of memories. Although Kimbell has only made two cuts in 2009, one of those was a tie for second at the Stonebrae Classic two weeks ago. It was his best Tour finish since his Valdosta victory.
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Kimbell is 15th on the money list as he looks to earn his PGA TOUR card for the first time. Tuesday, Kimbell sat down with Laury Livsey of the PGA TOUR's communications department to talk about his connection with Kinderlou Forest.
PGATOUR.COM: What is it about Kinderlou Forest and this golf course? It seems to suit you.
KIMBELL: I like this place, it's in my home state of Georgia. I play well here, the course is always in great shape and the weather is usually pretty good. I just feel comfortable here.
PGATOUR.COM: You won in your ninth career Nationwide Tour start. Were you surprised when you won so quickly?
KIMBELL: It really wasn't a surprise that I won. It might have been a surprise that I won so early. I don't think it's ever a surprise when you win because I think anybody out here can win. It's just a matter of time. Mine just happened to come early.
PGATOUR.COM: Do you think you might have taken winning for granted since you won so quickly?
KIMBELL: Yeah, maybe a little. I've always been a hot player who then cools off. I played well the tournament before in California (tied for 13th at the Livermore Valley Wine Country Championship), came here and won. I didn't play well at all after that, and I really can't tell you why. I wouldn't say I took it for granted, though.
PGATOUR.COM: Is playing in Georgia better for you than playing in another Nationwide Tour city?
KIMBELL: No, not really. I do think it's nice to be close to home. You're not far from home, and family can come and watch.
PGATOUR.COM: You're on the road a lot. Where was the worst hotel you've ever stayed?
KIMBELL: It was in Springfield, Mo. It was just old, worn out and falling apart. It was a good deal, though. I know it was cheap, and we had three of us in there.
PGATOUR.COM: Early in your career, did you ever sleep in your car?
KIMBELL: Sure. We've all done that at some point.
PGATOUR.COM: What kind of car?
KIMBELL: A Mazda Protege. When you travel on the mini tours, you're driving all over the place. I probably slept a total of two weeks, but not in a row, in my car. The deal is, you don't stay in your car the day before the tournament. You stay in it before the practice rounds. Monday-Tuesday is the way to go, and then you find something a bit more, um, comfortable for the weekend.
PGATOUR.COM: Did you sleep in the backseat or were you a recline-the-front-seat kind of guy?
KIMBELL: The backseat in a Mazda Protege is way too small. You have to recline the front seat.
PGATOUR.COM: What's your favorite sport to watch?
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KIMBELL: My favorite sport is baseball, but the most exciting to watch is March Madness -- college basketball.
PGATOUR.COM: Did you fill out a bracket this year?
KIMBELL: I did. I won last year's bracket, but I didn't do too well in the NCAAs that just ended. I picked Memphis, and they got knocked out a little too early.
PGATOUR.COM: How much did you win the year before?
KIMBELL: I do the bracket with members at Cartersville Country Club in LaFayette, and I picked up $600. Nothing wrong with that.
PGATOUR.COM: Who's your favorite baseball team and player?
KIMBELL: The Atlanta Braves and Chipper Jones. He's actually a member at my club.
PGATOUR.COM: Have you played golf with him?
KIMBELL: No, I have not. He didn't even come out there last year.
PGATOUR.COM: How do you feel about the designated hitter?
KIMBELL: I like it, even though I'm a National League guy.
PGATOUR.COM: You played baseball in college, right?
KIMBELL: I played at Southwest Texas. I was a shortstop.
PGATOUR.COM: Were you pretty good at turning the double play?
KIMBELL: I was skinnier and faster then. I didn't play golf at the time, and I maybe had a future in baseball. But I got tired of it. I got burned out and quit.
PGATOUR.COM: If you stepped in the batting cage right now ... ?
KIMBELL: I could hit an 80 mph fastball. It might take me a few dollars to get my timing back. But I could still get around on it.
PGATOUR.COM: If you took 10 college-range 3-pointers right now, how many would you make?
PGATOUR.COM: Only three?
OK, give me a day or two. I haven't shot baskets in a while. I might be able to make more than that. I used to be a pretty decent basketball player.
South Georgia Classic presented by First State Bank and Trust Company notes
• At 7,781 yards, Kinderlou Forest Golf Club tops all courses in terms of length on the Nationwide Tour, and, up until February, was longest course ever played on both the Nationwide Tour and PGA TOUR. Dove Mountain outside Phoenix, site of the Accenture Match Play Championship, was listed at 7,849 yards. The argument can be made, however, that Kinderlou Forest plays longer from the tips given the benefit of altitude in Arizona and lack of humidity, which is usually evident in South Georgia.
• DeCorso was the only player in the field last year to record four consecutive sub-70 rounds. He opened with a 4-under 68 and followed with rounds of 69-68-69.